By JEFF CLEMETSON
Jenne Bergstrom took over as branch manager of the La Mesa Library a month ago — just in time to oversee the transition to reopening from pandemic-caused limits to library services.
“It’s really starting to ramp up with more people coming in,” she said, adding that there are no more limits on the number of patrons allowed inside the library and the children’s area is now open, albeit without the toys. “But they’re coming” she promised.
Although new to the La Mesa branch library, Bergstrom is not new to the San Diego County Library (SDCL).
“I volunteered in the Julian Library when I was in high school there, worked in libraries in college as well, but I never really considered becoming a librarian until later,” she said. “I thought of going into academia and study linguistics, but then I realized I’m more of a generalist than a specialist so I tried to think of a job I could have where I can learn about everything and so I decided to go to library school and get my library degree.”
Bergstrom got her library degree from UCLA after spending a few years teaching English following graduating with a B.A. from Oberlin College in Ohio. Before landing in La Mesa, she worked in other SDCL libraries like El Cajon and Lemon Grove and most recently as branch manager of the brand new Alpine Library.
“I got there six months after they opened the new building and it’s just beautiful, so lovely,” she said, and added that she supports the push for a new La Mesa Branch Library facility.
“In my opinion — and I think in the county library’s opinion — we really do need a bigger space. We need meeting spaces; we need room for technology things. There’s just so more we could be doing if we really had the facility that this community deserves,” she said, adding that the La Mesa Branch Library is in the top three or four across the SDCL system in terms of usage.
Usage at all SDCL libraries, of course, was interrupted over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While at Alpine, Bergstrom saw the many different ways libraries changed services, from outright closure to a door service only model to partial opening with limited days/hours and capacity.
“It was really heartening — even in the limited ways to serve people — trying to at least get people some of the things they really need the most,” she said.
Despite the interruptions to the library system, Bergstrom said the pandemic did give libraries a chance to learn what services were most important to different communities across the county, a process SDCL was already undergoing with a community assessment program.
“[The pandemic] kind of really made that stark in a way, of just like, ‘OK, now we have this chance to just start from scratch, start from zero and really listen to the people in the community — what are people missing the most? what do we want to start back with first? That kind of thing,” she said.
Bringing back library programs is currently a challenge, because like other entities, the library system experienced staffing shakeups during the pandemic. Bergstrom estimates that it won’t be until the fall when libraries are back to a more normal programming schedule.
“Early literacy programs are the top category that we will bring back first,” she said. “That’s one of those things I think people really enjoy because it’s fun and it’s also really important for kids and our community.”
One program from Alpine that Bergstrom said she might try to introduce to La Mesa is a series of homesteading classes, where people are taught skills like farming, raising chickens, bee keeping, making cheese, canning or jarring vegetables, etc.
“With some tweaking, I think it could be interesting here, too,” she said.
New online system
One change Bergstrom said is coming to the library, is not La Mesa specific — a new website and computer system.
On June 30, the current SDCL app will stop functioning and from July 5–14 the entire SDCL website will be temporarily down to implement upgrades to the system. When the sdcl.org website relaunches on July 14, it “ill have an exciting new look, be easier to use, and allow you to discover books, movies, and things to listen to while engaging with others in the community,” according to a FAQ page, which can be viewed at www.sdcl.org/new-chapter.html.
— Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.